Fostering Future Leaders: The Fellowship of Christian Athletes Encourages Team Building and Organizational Skills Through a Faith-Based Approach

Fostering Future Leaders: The Fellowship of Christian Athletes Encourages Team Building and Organizational Skills Through a Faith-Based Approach
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Matt Walker
By: Matt Walker
Posted: January 29, 2019
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In a Nutshell: For 65 years, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been working to build faith among student-athletes while providing them with tools that will help them achieve success in life. The foundation of FCA lies in its four core values of integrity, serving, teamwork, and excellence. The organization seeks to achieve its vision “to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” Through the strategy of “To and Through the Coach,” FCA provides coaches with the tools to coach and influence student-athletes and other coaches. It also reaches student-athletes directly through FCA camps, Bible study sessions called Huddles and other techniques. FCA is always on the lookout for more volunteers to help engage, equip and empower coaches and athletes.

It’s no secret that participating in team sports not only provides health benefits, it also teaches young people important skills that can help them achieve success later in life — in relationships, careers, and financial wellness.

Despite playing for one of the best high school football coaches in the country, nobody would ever accuse me of excelling at the sport. Yet, the lessons Nick Hyder imparted to generations of Valdosta High School Wildcats — both great and not-so-great (me) — carry on 20-plus years after his death. Hyder focused on the mechanics of the game of football, yes, but he also put as much energy into building character in student-athletes and setting them up for success outside of sports.

A large part of Hyder’s philosophy was based on his Christian faith and deep involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (he was even inducted into FCA’s Hall of Champions).

FCA Logo

Hyder or his wife, June, would drive students who didn’t have rides home from football practice, spend extra time tutoring them so they could achieve academic success, or help them earn money through part-time work. And he always exhorted the importance of hard work, caring for others, caring for oneself, and never quitting.

Since its inception in 1954, FCA has worked to connect the Christian faith with athletics for professional athletes, student-athletes, and their coaches. And, in the process, the organization strives to help athletes excel in sports, academics, their communities, and in their faith — just as Hyder’s coaching style did for so many young people.

Nearly 65 years later, FCA is going strong, with thousands of participants in 84 countries around the world.

FCA’s Mission is Supported by Its Four Core Values of Integrity, Serving, Teamwork, and Excellence

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ vision is, “To see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes,” according to the organization’s website. And, its mission is, “To lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church.”

FCA supports its mission by focusing on four core values — integrity, serving, teamwork, and excellence. Each of the values is framed through the lens of key passages from the Bible that encourage members to strive to embody these values in a Christ-like manner.

Integrity
We will demonstrate Christ-like wholeness, privately and publicly. (Proverbs 11:3)
Serving
We will model Jesus’ example of serving. (John 13:1-17)
Teamwork
We will express our unity in Christ in all our relationships. (Philippians 2:1-4)
Excellence
We will honor and glorify God in all we do. (Colossians 3:23-24)

And, of course, these concepts will serve FCA members well in other areas of their lives as they translate to careers, family life, friendships, financial decisions, and more.

“FCA is a ministry uniquely positioned — through the influence of coaches and athletes — to impact our world by promoting in sport the life-changing message of Christ,” said FCA President Shane Williamson, upon taking on the role in 2017. “As a husband, father, coach, and athlete, God has used FCA to grow and change my life, marriage, and family in so many positive ways.”

He said he hopes to help increase opportunities for FCA supporters to invest in coaches and athletes, and all the people they influence.

Reaching Athletes with Camps, Huddles, and Its ‘To and Through the Coach’ Strategy

FCA implements its mission in a wide variety of ways on many different levels, and among its most successful and longest-running programs are its camps.

“FCA Camp takes the best attributes of an athletic-focused camp and a spiritual-focused camp and combines them into an athletic/spiritual experience like none other,” according to the FCA website.

FCA Camp

Students at an FCA camp during summer 2018. Photo courtesy of FCA.

The camps help to get coaches and athletes out of the everyday routines of their sport “and places them into an exciting, healthy, athletic environment that allows them to pursue their passion for sport and clearly see and hear Christ’s passion for them.”

With six different types of camps — Coaches Camp, Leadership Camp, Partnership Camp, Power Camp, Sports Camp, and Team Camp — FCA offers options for a broad range of members. In 2018, FCA hosted 771 different camps worldwide.

Additionally, FCA facilitates various Huddles — certified small group Bible studies and devotionals for coaches and athletes. Members can find team Huddles, multi-sport Huddles, and coaches Huddles in both campus and community settings.

Camps and Huddles are only two components in the FCA’s strategy to work directly with coaches.

“I firmly believe that after all the years I’ve been involved in ministry and sports, outside of the parent in the home, the most influential people in children’s lives are coaches,” Williamson told TheState.com. “At the very core of FCA today is this idea that we can be there to help resource and support and connect with coaches at all levels, helping them to be the men and women that they can really be.”

FCA calls this strategy “To and Through the Coach,” based on the idea that by reaching the coach, it can, in turn, reach many more athletes than it would otherwise.

The organization seeks to minister first to coaches’ “hearts, marriages, and families.” Then, the coaches can minister to their peers, athlete leaders, and teams.

Getting Involved to Better Engage, Equip, and Empower Student-Athletes

Just as its core values are inspired by the Bible, FCA’s methods to prepare athletes and coaches for successful spiritual and team journeys come from specific lessons in the Bible as well.

“As we seek to make disciples who make disciples, we engage, equip and empower coaches and athletes to know and grow in Christ and lead others to do the same,” according to the FCA website. “We engage relationally by connecting with individuals and through events in many different environments by building genuine trust, sharing our lives and sharing the gospel.”

Shane Williamson

Shane Williamson has been President of FCA since 2017. Photo courtesy of FCA.

The organization then equips its members with Christ-centered training and resources, including events and ongoing support to grow in their faith and in life.

Finally, the group empowers its leaders “who desire to use their time, talents, and treasures to help other coaches and athletes experience the gospel, grow in their faith and share Him with others,” according to the FCA website. “We desire to develop disciples who make disciples,” so they can then engage, equip, and empower others.

FCA offers many ways for people to support the organization and get involved, including as a volunteer, advisor, donor, staff member, or simply by joining a Huddle.

Athletes interested in more information about teams or other Huddles near them can search for local FCA staff on the organization’s website.

Just as Nick Hyder combinted his personal faith and passion for the game of football to teach thousands of student-athletes important life lessons, FCA is using the same approach, and is now reaching professional and student-athletes all across the world.